by Richard Sisk
17 Jun 2017
They grappled again, mostly in silence, with the question that has no answer -- why am I here when so many aren't? Libraries can be filled with books on the subject, going back to Homer.
The 6/67 Memorial at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia commemorates The Basic School's sixth graduating class, which suffered more than 250 casualties, including 43 officers killed in Vietnam. (US Marine Corps photo)In the fall of 1967, The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, finished training 498 twenty-something Marine second lieutenants. By the end of the year, nearly all were in Vietnam.
Before Christmas, the first of them was killed in action: 2nd Lt. Michael Ruane, of Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, on Dec. 18, 1967. The TBS class that began in June 1967 (TBS 6/67) would have a casualty rate of more than 50 percent -- the highest of any Marine officer class during the Vietnam War.
For those second lieutenants and their platoons, the pace was unrelenting. They would go past the wire -- when there was wire -- on daily patrols through terrain that ranged from paddies and dikes along the coast, through the scrub brush and elephant grass of the interior, and into the triple-canopy jungles of the high ground reaching into Laos.
The New York Times declared that "the era of big battles" had come to Vietnam in 1967. Le Duan, the real power in Hanoi, ordered North Vietnamese Army regulars into South Vietnam to support the Vietcong. The battles became bigger in 1968.
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